Removable Storage Options

June 14, 2011, By Christian Cawley

As we have seen recently, you simply cannot trust an optical disc device to house any data over a long period. Thanks to manufacturing anomalies and fungus, CDs and DVDs (and probably Blu-ray – it is too early to tell just yet) are all susceptible to damage and data loss over time, as demonstrated by the poor state of CDs purchased over 20 years ago.

While this damage might save a few embarrassed faces when a music collection is viewed by a friend for the first time, unless a backup is maintained then the data will be lost forever.

There are various media storage formats available that you can choose from, with the option to backup to multiple optical discs certainly among your choices in order to achieve some data resilience.

In addition, you might utilize a tape drive, external or removable hard disk drives or USB flash devices to make sure you have data packed up to portable devices.

Removable storage options for modern computers

Optical Removable Storage Options

As described above, there are various removable storage options that you can select, from standard recordable CD-ROM discs, DVD-ROMs and more recently recordable Blu-ray. While data loss through manufacturing issues and the threat of fungus remains a possibility, utilizing multiple discs and a regular backup routine to new media should circumvent this problem.

There are also various sizes and formats that you can backup to – CDs come in standard 5 inch and the smaller, credit card-sized variety, although notice that storage is limited for these – and DVDs have similar options. The larger capacity of DVDs, meanwhile, is further dwarfed by that of Blu-ray, so if you’re planning on backing up a massive music collection, movie collection or even ISO backups of games, there are plenty of options available among the range of removable optical discs.

Removable and External Hard Disk Drives

Backups can also be stored on external hard disk drives, which typically have a USB or e-SATA cable to connect them to your computer. These are great for additional storage that you might not use too often, but remember that data will be bottlenecked through a USB 2.0 connection, so if you’re relying on faster data transfer, opt for e-SATA, Firewire or USB 3.0.

In additional to external hard disk drives, you might opt for removable devices. There are several systems available, from a caddy/plug and play system for standard 3.5 inch hard disk drives (which has the risk of wearing down the connectors) to the Iomega REV disks (pictured), a high-capacity, hard disk alternative to their previous high-density floppy ZIP disk.

REV disks come in various sizes, starting at 35 GB (and these devices can be compressed to almost treble the capacity) and are very useful for long-term storage. Remember, however, that shocks and electromagnetic charges can damage hard disks and the data stored on them.

Tape Drives

The majority of backup tasks in government departments, institutions, corporations and web hosts utilize tape drives, and these compact devices are great for storing a scheduled backup program across several weeks. Better still, backup tapes take up very little space, thereby minimizing the cost impacts of remote storage for disaster recovery.

Tape drives are becoming more and more popular in a domestic setting, too. This should come as no surprise, given the similarities with video cassette tapes and the ease with which these devices can be used by pretty much anybody.

Flash Storage Options

Finally, there is flash memory, typically found either on a card or connected to a USB device. There are various types of flash available, and it is debatable if any is suitable as a long-term storage option for backing up data.

These types of storage are non-volatile, but the quality of the materials and the manufacturing process can result in them being unsuitable for saving data long-term. While more stable versions are available (identified, for instance, on microSDHC cards by the “HC” and the numerical rating that follows) flash is useful really for swapping data between computers or mobile devices and certainly shouldn’t be used as any medium- or long-term storage option.

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